The Netherlands were left ruing missed chances as surprise package Russia booked their place in the Euro 2008 semi-finals with a well-deserved 3-1 win at St Jakob Park on Saturday.

The Netherlands were left ruing missed chances as surprise package Russia booked their place in the Euro 2008 semi-finals with a well-deserved 3-1 win at St Jakob Park on Saturday.

The Russians looked to push forward right from the off and created a number of opportunities early on; the best of them falling to Roman Pavlyuchenko in the sixth minute, but the striker woefully ballooned his header over the crossbar after finding himself completely unmarked inside the six-yard area.

The Dutch had a golden chance to open the scoring just before the half-hour mark as Rafael van der Vaart’s wicked free-kick curled in behind the defence, but Ruud van Nistelrooy couldn’t quite get foot-to-ball on the far-post, and the threat sailed harmlessly behind for a goal-kick.

But just nine minutes into the second-half and Guus Hiddink’s men were in front as Sergei Semak picked out the near-post run of Pavlyuchenko, and the Russian captain connected a beautiful volley to leave goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar no chance.

Marco van Basten’s men pushed hard to draw the scores level and came close on a number of occasions through Wesley Sneijder, but the Real Madrid ace couldn’t find target and Akinfeev remained relatively unchallenged.

But with just four minutes remaining in the match the Dutch were level as Sneijder swung over a telling free-kick, and Van Nistelrooy left the Russian defence in his wake to head home the vital equaliser.

The Russians looked to have gone down to ten men in the dying seconds of normal time after Denis Kolodin picked up his second yellow card, but after consulting with the linesman the referee bizarrely rescinded the booking as the ball was adjudged to have already gone out of play.

The match went to extra-time and Pavlyuchenko, who was having an inspired evening, almost put his side ahead seven minutes in, but his fierce 20-yard strike cannoned off the cross-bar to the despair of the Russian supporters.

Russia continued to dominate the closing stages and the pressure eventually took its toll as Andrei Arshavin burst into the box before crossing over to Dmitri Torbinski, and the substitute just managed to squeeze the ball in at the far-post.

The goal seemed to completely knock any dwindling hope out of the Netherlands, and the Russians took full advantage of the situation, with Arshavin turning his defender before firing in a low drive, and a deflection off Andre Ooijer left Van der Sar with little chance as the ball rolled through the ‘keeper’s legs to seal the memorable victory.

  • Giancarlo Torres

    This to me has been the best Euro Cup in the last 12 years.All these teams are deservedly in the semifinals.The champion will be a very good team no matter what.